Ignored by Co-worker

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about loud, brash coworker who ignores me:

I work with a girl who chooses to be cold to me at all times. It really bothers me and I have asked her about it. She said there is nothing wrong, but still treats me cold by ignoring me and rude when she has to talk to me. The history is this: She has been with company for 4 years. I have been there for 2, but was previously there for 15. We are on the same level. We were friends at first, always discussing new ways and better methods to improve our work. I really enjoyed our work friendship. Although I knew she was controlling; it didn’t affect me in a negative way. She took our ideas, claimed as hers, and presented this to our manager of a “new and improved standard” for our department. She fought hard to get these new standards in effect, which really upset the entire department. She created a lot of hostility and tension as she tried to control and implement new standards with our manager’s support. She ousted herself from our department. She acted very vindictive to our lead and tried hard to get her fired, which didn’t work. She eventually got tired of me, as she didn’t need me anymore for ideas.

If I didn’t agree with her, she did not like it. I did disagree with a few minor things she wanted to change. I was open and friendly at first when we discussed it. She didn’t want to be disagreed with so our discussions turned in a hostile and uncomfortable situation. It was at this point when she started to ignore me. That was about a year ago. Her ideas did get implemented against our lead’s and several co-workers’ opposition. Now that she “won” she has since become friends with everyone in our department, including our lead who she tried to get fired.

She talks to everyone, but me. We have department meetings every week. There are just 5 of us, so it is a small and intimate group. Whenever I speak, she will not look at me. If I ask a question for ideas from everyone, she will not speak. If I see her during breaks, she will only look at and acknowledge the other person we are with. If I say “good morning” or anything of that nature, she will literally grumble “morning” as if she wants me to know she doesn’t want to be friendly.

Others have noticed this too. I have talked to my lead, manager and human resources for advice. I get advice like “be the bigger person” and continue to be nice or just ignore her. I am a friendly and sensitive person. I get along with everyone I work with. Yes, there are some I don’t care for, but I still get along with everyone. And people there enjoy working with me, my co-workers, lead, and managers. I think it is because I am a hard worker, I’m motivated and positive. How can I improve this situation? It has come to the point where I get nervous before and during our weekly meetings because I can’t stand how she singles me out with her ignoring and hostility towards me. I find it embarrassing to be treated like that in front of others.

She’s a loud and brash person. I think she enjoys talking and laughing with others right in front of me, while excluding me, to show she is liked. I wonder too if she is jealous of me. I am not the type of person who normally thinks people are jealous of me. While I have some confidence, I am still a modest person. But I can’t figure out “why me”? What is it with me she can’t stand? We had disagreements in the past, but that shouldn’t keep people from being friendly. Any suggestions you have are greatly appreciated! Thanks.

Signed, Ignored and It Hurts

Dear Ignored and It Hurts:

This coworker, who once was friendly, treats you like you don’t count. Can you change her? Probably not. Some individuals get their egos stroked by treating others as though they are not worth asking of them the time of day. For the moment I’ll refer to your coworker as Ms. I Matter-You Don’t (IMYD). How can you cope with IMYD’s incivility is the question you have put to asked your lead, manager and human resources. Their answers were: be the bigger person and continue to be nice or just ignore her. You’ve tried to take their advice but that hasn’t changed IMYD nor has it healed the hurt you feel.

So frankly, there may not be a way to improve the situation. I light of this; therefore, here are several overlapping options for you to ponder: 1. Toughen up. Speak up. Be civil and model the kind of behavior you want of IMYD. Don’t expect her to change. 2. Force IMYD to respond. Have a phrase ready for times she ignores you. Resist the temptation to address her as IMYD; rather use her real name, such as, “Mary, what do you think of my suggestion. I know you have strong opinions” or “One of the standards, you have promoted, Mary, is listening and responding to each other. Now do you not want to listen to and respond to each of us?” 3. Depending on how well your assertiveness forces Ms. IMYD to respond, you can decide if you should once again, speak with your lead, manager, and Human Resources. If she behaves even more negatively, you can log several instances of that, and report her incivility with a request of an investigation.

Think of this as being in the ring with someone who needs to know you have a punch. 4. Pursue your own career goals. In light of the years with this workplace, you should have an understanding of options for you, a hard worker with knowledge and skills. The best managers are mentors to those under them. Expect that of yours. Talk with her/him about your time with the company and seek advice on what you should do to think of your job as a career and not just as a job. What opportunities are available company-wide? Do you need additional training? Should you transfer to other areas to get more experience? Are there professional organizations to which you should belong? Have you taken training in lean management; that which develops special skills in cutting waste and innovation and employs such measures as six sigma? Are there books you should read? Don’t seek career advice just to find a way to avoid IMYD. Rather it’s time to focus on what you might do to add value to your company and make yourself more of value.These are more than enough options to ponder. Not one of them is a quick fix. They might prompt you to see yourself more positively and to find even a more constructive approach to dealing with this difficult coworker. For now, guard against allowing this history (or your and her story) of a deteriorating friendship play like a broken record in your head. You’ve spilled it. Now put is behind you or at least put in perspective. Don’t gossip about it with coworkers and friends. See the big picture. You have a job that can be one stage of a career. You have a company that is able to survive in difficult times. You can add value to its success each day you work. So think big. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. By that I mean you must do what it takes to work with even those like IMYD, and you can do that or find ways to bypass her.

William Gorden